This past New Year’s Eve—my first New Year’s Eve on the Earth without parents—I decided that I needed above all else to do a Sufi Dancemeditation session to set my course. I could have rented a studio locally or in Boston, but a sweep of intuition pushed me to offer it in Woods Hole in the house I inherited from my parents. What would that require? This house needed to fit who I have been becoming all my life and am continue to become. It needed to become my beautiful Home Studio.
The house was bloated with the usual mix of lovely things and nonsense which we all collect. Letters from friends of my parents I never knew. Photos of strangers, photos of me and my brother as children. Photos of my parents as young, fresh adults, smiling for the camera. I bagged and carted off old stained clothes for recycling. There are still too many perfectly good, well-made winter coats that don’t quite fit but I can’t bear to let go of. Yet. I can only absorb so much in my own life which already has all that I need. For months I had been laboring through stuff and stuff and stuff—sorting, cleaning, keeping, removing.
In the house of my parents, furniture filled every room with pathways snaking across Persian carpets between charmingly arranged spots to sit and talk. A dark red brocade loveseat and elegant low coffee table faced the fireplace dominating the center of the room. Two wing chairs flanked sunny south windows with a table between just the right side for two cups of tea or coffee and a folded newspaper. Additional Victorian sofas and chairs. There was the one where I sat and did my high school homework. Precarious little tables with marble tops and curvaceous legs. The piano…which has gone untuned and unplayed. A dusty violin case with a beloved but out-of-repair instrument inside. History, association, identity, mystery. It has been a time of suffocation and sorrow. I need space. I am a dancer. But for this, the familiar lineaments of rooms where I cherished and was cherished by my parents had to shift. Time to retire the childhood, honoring it in smaller ways, dipping in to occasionally, gratefully remember but not live enshrined and encumbered.
With a workshop coming up, I needed room for a dozen bodies to move and stretch. The living room was plenty big enough if I removed most of the furniture. I took a deep breath and did it–stored or donated it all except a few movable pieces for daily living. I had all the rugs cleaned and while they were out, I washed the floors and slithered on my belly swabbing decades of dust caught under radiators. Ric painted woodwork. Once the rugs were back, the house felt lighter, freer, clearer. For me, this is comfort—lots of elbow room, a vista across spaciousness, light. I like softness under my bare feet.
We have a wonderful 3-hour New Year’s Eve session concluding with a sitting circle. I ask everyone to close their eyes look inside or feel deep inside themselves and draw up something they would like to remember or focus on in the upcoming months or year. A guiding nugget. Then one by one, we will go around the circle and speak. Look inside. Seek deep. Because the power of the circle is in saying something meaningful…something we might not be able to say around others. I want to utter—but maybe the words don’t come out right at that moment—but I want to say, “It doesn’t have to make sense to others. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone here. If you wish, speak as if speaking to yourself…” And in this circle we are speaking to ourself, from ourself. Those sitting in the circle are witnesses. A circle of trees or rocks. Or the curve of a quiet shoreline.
I hope that we can all look beyond the mind’s surface, beyond the scripts determining daily actions, skirt the punitive self with its adjuration to whip us into shape or be a better person, not the performing monkey self for the love of others. Sufi mystic Jallaludin Rumi has a beautiful image for this—he writes that phenomena come to the deep well inside of us, draw out our water, and walk away. We fritter ourselves away on what we don’t want, on what doesn’t matter, on what harms us. We labor under the the illusion that if we squander our life-force, spill our life blood for others (or the world), that others (or the world) will love us, reward us. Mostly the world cares nothing about us. Mostly we don’t matter to others, or we matter a great deal less than we imagine and in ways we don’t envision. We often matter not as we really are but as something others need from us. We are figures in a bargaining. We need to learn to be generous from within our strength. To be loving without self-destruction. We all need to figure that equation. Rumi asks that we not let our marrow be frivolously sucked away.
This is difficult to do. Day after day, year after year we justify ourselves, we defend our selves, out loud and to ourself. Always there is what we are supposed to do and say and be, and then somewhere buried beneath these accumulations, naked under accoutrements, there is who we are. We are rarely asked to open in and let it out. Witnessing authenticity is not common experience. It takes practice.
My eyes are closed. I see the deep water inside the deep well. Then a spring bubbling in a grassy clearing in the forest, sun laid across, glittering diamonds. The water is sweet and fresh, the flavor of earth and ancient rock. The wellspring inspiration…Inspiration. Inspiring. Inspiration. Inspired. Inspire. Deep in there is this quiet thing…
When her turn comes around, Ann, who has been in my workshops over many years, says a beautiful word. She says, “Wait.” She says waiting isn’t her most practiced quality. She is often impatient. She wants to fix things, but what calls from inside is to wait, to pause, to be patient. She reaches in and finds inspiration in waiting. Well, I am calling this an inspiration because inspiration is not always what we think. Waiting is not typically associated with inspiration. Inspiration is characterized as excitement, shiny ideas, lively expressions, dynamic activation. Yet ‘wait’ can be inspiration. Inspiration can be quiet, tiny, a jewel. It can mean refraining from action. Inspiration is that which rings deep in our center and in our heart. Inspiration can be a seed or a full blown flower, but it resonates. Inspiration can be a whisper or a symphonic boom, but it is without doubt. Inspiration can be of fragment or a surrounding panorama, but it is unmistakably right. Inspiration is truthful.
As I listen to Ann, her word rising from the deep well in her body, I see that inspiration can be stillness. I feel settled as she speaks. I feel that I am sitting on a wood floor on a beautiful Persian rug on my soft sheepskin. Nothing shakes or shifts. Gravity cradles me. The late afternoon air of the year’s last day pillows my skin and bones and runs its fingers through my hair.
My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America (DSA), a nonprofit 501-C3 organization dedicated to the Path of embodied mysticism. DSA provides opportunities for personal development, exploratory inquiry into embodied spirituality, and community connection through practice, service, and performance. DONATIONS are tax-deductible.